Kids Café fuels the body and feeds the mind
“The library is not just a house for books. Thinking in business mode, the library tries to fill market gaps in the community,” said Nancy Levin, Heights Libraries director. Those gaps include the need for after-school programs for children and technology literacy for people of all ages. “The library acts as an agent of serendipitous discovery; it is a place for learning that is definitely not school,” said Levin.
One need in the Cleveland Heights–University Heights community is access to nutritious food for children. According to the Ohio Department of Education, 66 percent of children attending CH–UH public schools in 2011–12 were economically disadvantaged.
For the past three years, Heights Libraries has partnered with the Cleveland Foodbank to provide healthy and nutritious food for children at its branches. Initially, the Lee Road Library served lunches throughout the summer. Now, the library hosts Kids Café, an after-school snack program at the University Heights and Noble Neighborhood libraries. Snacks include 100 percent fruit juice, Sun Chips, granola bars, milk and fruit.
The idea behind Kids Café is to provide healthy food at safe places where kids are already congregating. At the Heights Libraries, kids of all ages, from babies to 18-year-olds, are invited to enjoy a snack while participating in library activities or just hanging out.
“We put out age-appropriate books and hold extra story times during the snack program,” said Sam Lapides, special projects coordinator at Heights Libraries. “It’s a different way for us to promote literacy.”
The Noble Neighborhood Library has participated in the Kids Café program for about two years. University Heights Library recently added the program because of its success at Noble. “We’re really hoping to expand from one day to three days a week,” said Aurora Martinez, University Heights Library manager, “but we need volunteers before we can add the extra days.”
The University Heights Library also plans to host a nutrition educator from the Foodbank who will lead Kids Café participants in fun activities that teach children about healthy eating.
Volunteers are needed after school on Wednesday and Friday at the University Heights Library. Anyone interested in volunteering should talk to a librarian at any Heights library branch or visit www.heightslibrary.org to fill out an application.
Julia Murphy is the marketing assistant for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library.